It’s been a warm winter - have a salad.
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January 19, 2021
We could use a bit more snow this winter, but might as well pretend it’s spring while the air is warm. Salade Niçoise hails from the Mediterranean coast of France. Find a sunny day to assemble this salad made up of tuna fish, fresh vegetables, and a tomato-infused vinaigrette.
I live near a section of the Rocky Mountains. Normally at this time of year, the foothills are blanketed in layers of snow, the backyard is a permanent sledding hill, and the sidewalks are narrow ice skating rinks. This year, however, we find ourselves spending sunny afternoons outside in t-shirts, later coming inside and reaching for a drink from the fridge instead of setting the kettle on the stove. It’s weird.
As a result of this otherworldly weather, I’ve decided to publish a recipe I was originally going to save for spring or summer: salade niçoise. Nice, France sits along the coast of the Mediterrannean Sea. When in Nice, you are zero minutes away from the beach, one hour and four minutes away from an Alpine ski resort, and a five-hour ferry ride away from the stunning island of Corsica. There are many places in the world I have yet to see, but so far it’s hands down one of my favorite regions on this planet.
If you browse Peel the Garlic and scroll back to some of my first recipes, you’ll find other dishes from the region: pissaladière, tarte soleil, and pan bagnat. Take a look at these recipes and you’ll notice several recurring ingredients: olive oil, tomatoes, eggs, olives, etc. Vinaigrette dressings and an abundance of fresh, summer vegetables are staples of the cuisine found in southern France.
It’s January, so obviously it is not prime time for buying tomatoes and bell peppers, but it is prime time for planning what to grow in your garden this year. Stockpile some radish, grape tomato, parsley, and bell pepper seeds, and you’ll be well on your way to making the freshest (and first?) salade niçoise you’ve ever tried.
The version of salade niçoise you are about to make includes shallots instead of another type of onion. Regardless of which member of the onion tribe you use, I highly suggest you deflame the raw onion. Woah, deflame? When you deflame an onion, you soak the raw, cut onion pieces in cold water for 10 to 20 minutes and then drain and rinse. This process removes the sulfurous compounds responsible for strong, onion breath and crying eyes caused by onions. In this recipe I instruct you to deflame the shallots for 20 minutes. Doing so will give you a pleasant shallot flavor in every bite without requiring you to gargle with mouthwash after the meal.
You’ll notice that the first thing you are asked to do in the recipe is to cut the tomatoes in half, add some salt, and allow the tomatoes to drain in a colander. When the salt comes in contact with the cut tomatoes, it simply does its thing and extracts the liquid from the tomatoes, dropping it into the bowl beneath the colander. After 20 minutes or so, you will have a small accumulation of tomato liquid in the bowl. You will add this tomato juice to the basic vinaigrette, transforming a humdrum mixture into a garden fresh dressing.
Salade Niçoise is a staple of southern French cuisine. You’ll find variations of the traditional dish all over the internet. The good news is that you are making the salad, so you get to choose what to add. Have some carrots on hand and want to throw them in? Do it. Don’t eat tuna fish? Take it out.
Wherever you are, have a nice time pretending it’s spring by making (or planning) this garden fresh salad in the dead of winter.
(click each step as you go to keep track of your progress)
Finished and want to make it again?
- Prep time: 35min
- Cook time: 15min
- Serving size: 4
- 4 eggs
- 300 g (10 oz) grape tomatoes
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 8 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 100 g (3.5 oz) black Nicoise or Kalamata olives
- One 140 g (5 oz) can of tuna
- 15 mL (1 Tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 60 mL (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 15 mL (1 Tbsp) red wine vinegar
- Several sprigs of fresh parsley
Cut the grape tomatoes into halves and place in a colander. Place colander over a bowl and add 1/2 tsp salt to the tomatoes.
Fill a small bowl with ice water and add the shallots. Allow the shallots to soak and the tomatoes to drain for about 20 minutes while you continue preparing the salad. After 20 minutes, drain the shallots.
Place eggs in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, remove pot from heat and cover. Let sit covered for 8 minutes. Then transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel the eggs and slice into rounds.
For the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and drained tomato juice in a small bowl or jar. Whisk or shake until combined.
Assemble salad by layering bell pepper, radish slices, tuna, olives, tomatoes, shallots, egg slices, and parsley leaves. Dress with the vinaigrette.
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